The Portrait of a Lady
How we cite our quotes:
"But who's 'quite independent,' and in what sense is the term used? – that point's not yet settled. Does the expression apply more particularly to the young lady my mother has adopted, or does it characterise her sisters equally? – and is it used in a moral or in a financial sense? Does it mean that they've been left well off, or that they wish to be under no obligations? or does it simply mean that they're fond of their own way?" (1.14)
The idea of the independent woman in question amuses Ralph – he’s not exactly sure what an independent woman (who’s not his mother) would be like, and, from Mrs. Touchett’s hilariously cryptic telegraph, it’s impossible to tell.
"Oh no; she has not adopted me. I'm not a candidate for adoption."
"I beg a thousand pardons," Ralph murmured. "I meant – I meant – " He hardly knew what he meant.
"You meant she has taken me up. Yes; she likes to take people up. She has been very kind to me; but," she added with a certain visible eagerness of desire to be explicit, "I'm very fond of my liberty." (2.18)
Isabel asserts herself in the face of Mrs. Touchett’s interest – she makes it quite clear to Ralph that she is still in control of herself, not his mother.
"Well, if you'll be very good, and do everything I tell you I'll take you there," Mrs. Touchett declared.
Our young woman's emotion deepened; she flushed a little and smiled at her aunt in silence. "Do everything you tell me? I don't think I can promise that."
"No, you don't look like a person of that sort. You're fond of your own way; but it's not for me to blame you."
"And yet, to go to Florence," the girl exclaimed in a moment, "I'd promise almost anything!" (3.10-11)
Mrs. Touchett offers a problematic opportunity to Isabel – the girl values her freedom of choice, but the idea of a new life in the other world of Europe is too tempting to pass up. Clearly, she would like to have things both ways: be able to stick to her own ways, but still go with Mrs. Touchett.